2. Does the Calvinistic Doctrine of God’s Providence Make God Responsible for Sin? Against the Calvinistic view of God’s providence (which allows that he decrees to permit sin and evil) Arminians would say that God is not responsible for sin and evil because he did not ordain them or cause them in any way. This is indeed one way of absolving God from responsibility and blame for sin, but is it the biblical way? The problem is whether the Arminian position can really account for many texts that clearly say that God ordains that some people sin or do evil (see Section B.7, above, pp. 322-27). The death of Christ is the prime example of this, but there are many others in Scripture (Joseph’s brothers, Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the Canaanites, Eli’s sons, David’s census, and the Babylonians, to mention a few). The response could be made that these were unusual events, exceptions to God’s ordinary way of acting. But it does not solve the problem, for, on the Arminian view, how can God be holy if he ordains even one sinful act? The Calvinist position seems preferable: God himself never sins but always brings about his will through secondary causes; that is, through personal moral agents who voluntarily, willingly do what God has ordained. These personal moral agents (both human beings and evil angels) are to blame for the evil they do. While the Arminian position objects that, on a human level, people are also responsible for what they cause others to do we can answer that Scripture is not willing to apply such reasoning to God. Rather, Scripture repeatedly gives examples where God in a mysterious, hidden way somehow ordains that people do wrong, but continually places the blame for that wrong on the individual human who does wrong and never on God himself. The Arminian position seems to have failed to show why God cannot work in this way in the world, preserving both his holiness and our individual human responsibility for sin. 3. Can Choices Ordained by God Be Real Choices? In response to the claim that choices ordained by God cannot be real choices, it must be said that this is simply an assumption based once again on human experience and intuition, not on specific texts of Scripture. Yet Scripture does not indicate that we can extrapolate from our human experience when dealing with God’s providential control of his creatures, especially human beings. Arminians have simply not answered the question, Where does Scripture say that a choice ordained by God is not a real choice? When we read passages indicating that God works through our will, our power to choose, and our personal volition, on what basis can we say that a choice brought about by God through these means is not a real choice? It seems better to affirm that God says that our choices are real and to conclude that therefore they are real. Scripture repeatedly affirms that our choices are genuine choices, that they have real results, and that those results last for eternity. “Do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28). “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This causes us to conclude that God has made us in such a way that (1) he ordains all that we do, and (2) we exercise our personal will and make real, voluntary choices. Because we cannot understand this should we therefore reject it? We cannot understand (in any final sense) how a plant can live, or how a bumblebee can fly, or how God can be omnipresent or eternal. Should we therefore reject those facts? Should we not rather simply accept them as true either because we see that plants in fact do live and bumblebees in fact do fly, or because Scripture itself teaches that God is omnipresent and eternal? Calvin several times distinguishes between “necessity” and “compulsion” with regard to our will: unbelievers necessarily sin, but no compulsion forces them to sin against their will. In response to the objection that an act cannot be willing or voluntary if it is a necessary act, Calvin points to both the good deeds of God (who necessarily does good) and the evil deeds of the Devil (who necessarily does evil): If the fact that he must do good does not hinder God’s free will in doing good; if the Devil, who can only do evil, yet sins with his will—who shall say that man therefore sins less willingly because he is subject to the necessity of sinning? Who are we to say that choices somehow caused by God cannot be real? On what basis can we prove that? God in Scripture tells us that he ordains all that comes to pass. He also tells us that our choices and actions are significant in his sight and that we are responsible before him for our actions. We need simply to believe these things and to take comfort in them. After all, he alone determines what is significant, what is real, and what is genuine personal responsibility in the universe. But do our actions have any effect on God? At this point Arminians will object that while Calvinists may say that a choice caused by God is a real choice, it is not real in any ultimate sense, because, on a Calvinist view, nothing that God does can ever be a response to what we do. Jack Cottrell says: Calvinism is still a theology of determinism as long as it declares that nothing God does can be conditioned by man or can be a reaction to something in the world. The idea that a sovereign God must always act and never react is a point on which almost all Calvinists seem to agree....Reformed theologians agree that the eternal decree is unconditional or absolute....“Decretal theology” decrees that “God cannot be affected by, nor respond to, anything external to him,” says Daane. But here Cottrell has misunderstood Reformed theology for two reasons. First, he has quoted James Daane, who, though he belongs to the Christian Reformed Church, has written as an opponent, not a defender, of classical Reformed theology, and his statement does not represent a position Reformed theologians would endorse. Second, Cottrell has confused God’s decrees before creation with God’s actions in time. It is true that Calvinists would say that God’s eternal decrees were not influenced by any of our actions and cannot be changed by us, since they were made before creation. But to conclude from that that Calvinists think God does not react in time to anything we do, or is not influenced by anything we do, is simply false. No Calvinist theologian known to me has ever said that God is not influenced by what we do or does not react to what we do. He is grieved at our sin. He delights in our praise. He answers our prayers. To say that God does not react to our actions is to deny the whole history of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Now a Calvinist would add that God has eternally decreed that he would respond to us as he does. In fact, he has decreed that we would act as we do and he would respond to our actions. But his responses are still genuine responses, his answers to prayers are still genuine answers to prayer, his delight in our praise is still genuine delight. Cottrell may of course object that a response that God has planned long ago is not a real response, but this is far different from saying that Calvinists believe God does not respond to what we do. Moreover, we return to the same unsupported assumption underlying this objection: on what scriptural basis can Cottrell say that a response God has planned long ago is not a real response? Here it is helpful for us to realize that there is no other reality in the universe except what God himself has made. Is a thunderstorm caused by God a real thunderstorm? Is a king that God establishes on a throne a real king? Is a word that God causes me to speak (Ps. 139:4; Prov. 16:1) a real word? Of course they are real! There is no other reality than that which God brings about! Then is a human choice that God somehow causes to happen a real choice? Yes, it is, in the same way that a thunderstorm or a king is real according to their own characteristics and properties. The choice that I make is not a “forced” or “involuntary” choice—we make choices all the time, and we have absolutely no sense of being forced or compelled to choose one thing rather than another.